“Women should never be called sluts or bitches, and if anyone ever calls you a slut or a bitch, whether it’s your best friend or the singer of a band, they don’t deserve respect.”
That was how Dan “Soupy” Campbell began The Wonder Years’ set at a stop on the Warped Tour in 2013. He was responding to comments made by Matty Mullins from Memphis May Fire made on stage, calling out girls who dress slutty.
The Story So Far have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. After a young female fan got on stage and started to fiddle with her phone, lead singer Parker Cannon dropkicked her in the back, causing her to faceplant back in to the crowd.
Perhaps commendably, Parker Cannon does not discriminate between genders when abusing fans. In 2015 he kicked a guy who was messing about on stage trying to take a photo. While an aggressive response to a decidedly unaggressive action, this instance was nowhere near as violent as his dropkick from earlier this year. Neither should be tolerated.
The pop punk community was slow to respond, and stupid when it did. Magazines, including the UK’s biggest selling weekly rock magazine Kerrang, ran with headlines such as “Is it ever right to dropkick a fan?” Even if the article ended up being a two-page spread with an N on one page and an O on the other, the clickbait-esque headline which throws into doubt the seriousness of assaulting a fan is unprofessional and dangerous in a scene that clearly shows little regard for the safety of women. Had the headline been “Parker ‘The Prick’ Cannon continues to hit fans like a thug” then at least it would have been doing the right thing and defending not only fans, but people from abuse.
You cannot dropkick people. If I ran up behind someone in the street and did it I would be done for assault. Even at the most aggressive metal gigs, mosh pits are safe environments with codes to make sure people remain unharmed. Deliberately targeting and attacking someone at a gig is not up for debate.
But then, because of the rock community’s attitude of feeling like a collective of outsiders, it is poorly regulated. People were no quicker to condemn Phil Anselmo of Pantera fame throwing a white power salute at a gig at the start of the year. We mock the mainstream’s sexist lyrics, then turn a blind eye to The Story So Far’s “do you look yourself straight in the eyes, and think about who you let between your thighs.” Pop punk is incredibly white and male, unlike the more mainstream hip hop which is predominantly black, and thus racial reasons mean we are quick to attack black culture for sexism but ignore it in white culture.
Whether it’s violently misogynistic Brand New lyrics (“even if her plane crashes tonight, she’ll find some way to disappoint me, by not burning in the wreckage or drowning at the bottom of the sea”) or Nice Guy Fall Out Boy lyrics (“You were the last good thing about this part of town”), pop punk is rife with sexist angry/sad/sangry white boys singing at girls and projecting their feelings on to them. Either they want to hurt them or they put them on a pedestal.
And this is a scene with a young fanbase. Most people have a road to feminism, and when you are 14 listening to Blink 182, your mind is not awash with problems caused by a patriarchal society. These lyrics mean something. They are scrawled on school notepads and reblogged on Tumblr. Even a young Hayley Williams sang “once a whore, you’re nothing more” even if she did later apologise once she was older. That song, ‘Misery Business’, was the band’s biggest to date and millions of people heard that line before any apology, which was not seen by anywhere near as many people.
The fact is, pop punk is not welcoming to women. We point the finger at hip hop because of its openly sexist and degrading lyrics, and so we should, but we ignore pop punk because it is for the outsiders who should know better (and they are all white, so who cares). Pop punk shows filled with skinny boys in tank tops and beanie hats can feel like an MRA convention when all the boys raise their arms and that waft of Lynx Africa poisons the room as they all sing “I kill, kill, kill little girls” along with Say Anything. “It’s such a thrill, thrill, thrill to the world when I kill, kill, kill little girls.”
So sure Parker Cannon is a violent guy who should not be allowed around people, but the fact he kicked a girl off stage is just one part of pop punk’s sexism problem. Every time a woman works their way up through the ranks, like Lynn Gunn from Pvris, it feels like a success because there are so few women in the scene. The disproportion is shocking. But why should women want to go near this kind of music when it does everything to make them feel as uncomfortable as possible?
[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]
Image – Rolling Stone Magazine